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Habesha: New Ethiopian Place

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Hey just wanted to give a quick report on Habesha, a new Ethiopian restaurant in...west downtown? I don't know what to call that neighborhood, but its like near Boren and Stewart, maybe? Anyways, we had seen this place a number of times and finally went to check it out. The interior is amzingly pretty, someone clearly put a lot of money into making this a beautiful restauratn, and it paid off. The ambience was great. It was snowing outside and It took all of our effort to eventually get up and go! The only complaint with decor was the the tables were a little small for Ethipian style eating.

The injera tasted very fresh, I asked if they made them on location, she said they didn't, but planned to in the near future. Very exciting, not too many places do that. For as much as I loved the place itself, I wish I loved the food a little more. The Kitfo (steak tartar type dish) tasted a little cooked, despite my request for raw, and the waitress said it was raw. I think the problem was they used SO much butter in the mixing that it cooked the meat a little. This was way greasier than any where else. They also seemed to be missing the traditional cooling cheese. Our Habesha lamb was delicious, but the lamb was a touch over cooked. The sambusa (similar to a samosa) was beautifully fried, but still a bit cold in the middle.

I'm hoping everything is just new opening jitters because the flavors of this place, both in ambience and in the food are amazing. If they can get the temping issues down this could be an amazing place. Even with the mistakes, I definetly say this place is somewhere I would return. Really is the first place in Seattle I've seen to take Ethiopian dining up to the next level.

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  1. thanks for the report dagoose. it's nice to have an ethiopian in a new part of town if nothing else. we need one in the ballard, phinney fremont area.hopefully the kinks will work out. not having the eyeb (cheese) with the kitfo's kind of a problem. so the atmosphere and other indications were for a more upscale experience than some of the other places? is that right? were the prices a little higher too? and was the habesha lamb a wot (stew) or more like tibs? ps you're always posting about food i love. particularly ethipoian but other stuff too. our palates are simpatico.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ericlutzker

      Hey: Yeah, the atmsosphere, service, etc. were all more upscale than any where else I've been--even Meskel's upstairs part which is fairly nice. The price was pretty much in line, as I recall. I didn't pay that night, so I don't know what those ones were, but, I must admit I went back last night to try the veggie platter, usually a good indication of a place and that was $13, which seems pretty reasonable to me.

      The Habesha Lamb I spoke of was more like a tibs, made of lamb, bell peppers and jalapenos. On the veggie platter, I don't know what everything was, but what I think was the shiro was really greasy again. The plainish black lentil things was very plain, the greens were room temp (on purpose? Either way I didn't like). On the other hand the salad was great, the cabbage was by far the best I've had, the yellow lentil dish was amazing and what I think was some sort of veggie wot was terrific. So still pretty hit or miss. Other than that, same sorts of things I said before.

      1. re: dagoose

        hmmmm. Must try.

        http://www.abesha.wordpress.com

    2. I work out at 24 HR fitness around the corner and tried it once recently.

      I agree that the space is nicely done. The people are friendly. Many of the dishes are real tasty. I don't know much about Ethiopian food (apart from a few visits to places in D.C. when I lived there), but their spiced cabbage dish stood out as particularly good.

      It seemed that they were still figuring out how to run a restaurant. Despite a sign announcing "happy hour" they were without a bartender the night I went, and the gentleman behind the bar was pretty clearly not a drinker because he was struggling to make basic drinks. Getting us seated was a little awkward, with a friend/family member? noticing that we didn't have menus and bringing one over.

      In general, they seemed like really nice people, much of the food was very good, and I was totally rooting for them to succeed in that area, which could use all the interest it can get. But the experience needed some polish -- enough to match the stylish setting.

      1. http://seattleweekly.com/2008-02-13/f...

        from todays weekly. Sounds like they've worked it up a notch.

        6 Replies
        1. re: dagoose

          We went two weeks ago with the in-laws who had never had Ethiopian before and everyone enjoyed it very much. We were there early on a Friday evening and they were out of chicken, which seemed odd and not promising for the rest of their evening, so we had lamb (flavor great but came with a lot of meat on little bones so it was a little hard to eat) and beef (could have used a little more kick but nicely cooked) and the vege platter. I'm sorry I don't recall the names of the meat dishes.
          Overall, I'd say it was pretty good and a very nice looking place but I still miss the old Kokeb (not as big a fan of the new one) but perhaps that's because it was my first experience with Ethiopian and keeps that first crush allure. In my head there's just something about the spice level and execution of all of the dishes that hasn't been quite matched yet by any other Seattle Ethiopian.

          1. re: jlbs

            just checking: have you tried lalibela? cherry just east of mlk. i think it's the most consistently good ethiopian in town for sure. but i know what you're saying about the old kokeb. i only went there once or twice in '87 (!) but it was very good. i was just unnerved that they had a place setting with a fork. i was used to jarra's in portland where they'd rather shutter the business than offer a fork.

            1. re: ericlutzker

              I found lalibela to taste much less fresh than some of the other places in town--Meskel across the street and Dahlak on ranier. But people keep raving about it, I keep trying in hopes it will get better...

              1. re: ericlutzker

                I'm not sure. I've been to the one that's in a house up there. And the one that's in Capital Hill (Queen Sheba maybe?). A friend really likes Blue Nile so I think I'll try there soon. I liked the newish one on Roosevelt near Taste of India and one that I tried a little north of Northgate (my lack of memory for place names here is appalling, I'm sorry) but like all of the others, there's just a little something lacking.

                1. re: ericlutzker

                  Does anyone have any thoughts on how these stack up against Cafe Ibex? A friend of mine really recommended it but I went right after New Year's and it was actually not good (and I'm pretty easy-to-please...food kind of cold, not fresh-tasting...just not tasty). I wasn't sure if it was an off night - my friend usually has good taste and I searched on the board and it looks to have gotten another good review last year. If folks think it's on par with some of the other places that are getting good marks, maybe Ethiopian in Seattle is just not my thing!

                  1. re: ThreeBowls

                    It may seem hypocritical to say this just before I offer my opinion on the Ethiopian query, but I am often wary of affording much weight to any single review on this or another board if I don't have any information on the poster's background or experience. An individual poster might not, for example, have eaten at any other ethiopian restaurants, which, IMO, might diminish a basis for their criticism of a recently visited restaurant. Also, it is common to see reflected in may single reviews a sort of negative "snowball" effect, where one off-putting event ocurring early on during the dining experience (e.g. slow seating, host ignorance) appears to color evaluation of the other aspects (e.g. the quality of the food itself). Of course, your friend's opinion is a different matter.

                    I have not tried Ibex. I find it surprising that people think that Queen Sheba compares favorably to any ethiopian restaurant--in my experience the food there was lukewarm and insipid and the wine spoiled. That being said, I think generally Ethiopian in Seattle is strong...one website I visited listed more restaurants here than perhaps any other city besides LA, which amounts to a very high local per capita. I went to many ethiopian restuarants while living in DC (another city with many east africans) and Seattle's joints show very well in comparison. After many visits, I have never been dissapointed by either Meskel or Dahlak (Eritrean), and I think Ras-Dashen is not far behind.

            2. I ate there tonight and thought it was very good, though I can't really compare it with other Ethiopian places since I haven't frequented them in recent years (sadly). But Habesha's menu is more extensive and the atmosphere more refined than at most places. I'd go back.

              Note: The address is 1809 Minor, not 809 as it says on Habesha's own website (which is still under construction)!

              1. Interesting about the injera. Because injera does not keep well I assumed it was always made on site. Thanks for the report.